A Las Vegas-based company and its owners have entered guilty pleas in a case involving tainted pet food that killed thousands of dogs and cats in 2007. The co-owners of ChemNutra Inc., who are a married couple named Miller, reached a plea agreement with prosecutors and entered a guilty plea at a hearing last month. ChemNutra also pled guilty.
The Millers and ChemNutra, along with two Chinese companies, were indicted in February 2008 on charges alleging they imported wheat gluten tainted with the chemical melamine, which was then sold to pet food makers. Thousands of cats and dogs became sick or died after eating the tainted food. ChemNutra and the Millers were charged with 13 misdemeanor counts of introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce, 13 misdemeanor counts of introduction of misbranded food into interstate commerce and one felony count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co., Suzhou Textiles, Silk, and Light Industrial Products Arts and Crafts I/E Co. were also indicted. The indictments alleged that Suzhou Textiles, an export broker, mislabeled 800 metric tons of tainted wheat gluten manufactured by Xuzhou to avoid inspection in China. According to the indictment, Suzhou then did not properly declare the contaminated product it shipped to the U.S. as a material to be used in food. ChemNutra allegedly picked up the melamine-tainted product at a port of entry in Kansas City, then sold it to makers of various brands of pet foods.
The indictment states further that Xuzhou added the melamine to artificially boost the protein content of the gluten to meet the requirements specified in Suzhou’s contract with ChemNutra. Prosecutors said adding the melamine, which would allow it to pass chemical inspections for protein content, was cheaper than actually adding protein to the gluten. The Millers and ChemNutra were aware that the product had been shipped into the U.S. under false pretenses and failed to notify their customers.
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